Although the meaning of faith has been bitterly debated, and the people who succumb are fanatical in their deference, faith, when examined, when it is chased from the camouflage of scripture and ritual, is an apparition, a deceit upon which the façade of religion is constructed.
“Hawaii is moving toward Japan,” “Jesus rose from the dead,” “The solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago,” “Mohammed flew on the back of a flying horse.” These are all truth claims and while none of them can be absolutely certain they differ in their credibility.
Empirical knowledge is obtained through observation and is fundamentally verifiable and falsifiable. Evolution—the predominant anathema for the faithful—is verifiable. It can be observed in the selective breeding that has been used since prehistory to produce new varieties of plants and animals. The cultivation of new species was practised by the Romans and was established as a scientific practice during the British Agricultural Revolution in the 18th century 1. Evolution can be observed in the laboratory. Radiation of the fruit fly has produced more than 200 different populations. Scientists have even selected them “backwards” by returning them to the original ancestral environment 2.
Evolution is falsifiable. If homo sapien remains were discovered and dated to the Precambrian era, approximately 530 million years before the first emergence of mammals, the theory of evolution would be eviscerated. Belief in empirical knowledge can be disambiguated as trust 3. To trust is to believe based on evidence that is both verifiable and falsifiable. We trust in evolution.
Faith is relied upon when evidence is lacking but we want to believe something anyway. To have faith is to assert knowledge of something without reliable evidence and to even continue that assertion in the face of refutation. The proposition “I have faith in God,” does not contain the proposition “Maybe God exists,” or even that “I hope God exists,” it is the claim that “I know God exists.” It is a knowledge claim that cannot be justified by empirical evidence 4. It is a self-deception and the self-justification of a desire for something to be true.
It is impossible to determine the veracity of so many multifarious and contradictory faith claims. Christians believe that salvation is obtained through Jesus Christ 5, Muslims believe that it is through adherence to the five pillars of Islam. While these beliefs can both be false, they cannot both be true. Muslims can not enter Paradise without accepting Christ as their saviour and Christians are doomed to perdition without total submission to Allah 6.
There is no way of ascertaining the veracity of any faith based claim. A Christian's faith in Jesus is no more or less valid than a Muslim's faith in Allah, a Hindu's faith in Vishnu, or a psychiatric patient's faith in the flying spaghetti monster. The Christian and the Muslim, the faithful and the insane, all have unwavering faith in something that cannot be substantiated or refuted.
Belief that there is no God is refutable. While the medicated denizens of psychiatric institutions demonstrate the unreliability of subjective claims to divine knowledge, if God, being omnipotent and therefore presumably a polyglot, were to commune with the entire population, to all the inhabitants of Earth, existential scepticism would be expelled.
If human remains were substantiated to be Jesus of Nazareth thereby disproving the ascension of Christ, would Christians relinquish their belief in his divinity? If a parchment were discovered documenting Mohammed's renouncement of all divine inspiration, if he had admitted to being a charlatan, would Muslims apostatise?
Some may renounce their beliefs, but those more profoundly entrenched within their tradition would not. There would be no evidence, however well attested, that they would accept. Their faith is beyond doubt and beyond evidence. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines this type of certainty and incorrigibility as a delusion 7. Holding a belief as incontestable is to be delusional. It is only the prevalence of that dissimulation that keeps the men in white coats from their door.
However, the pervasiveness of a belief has no relation to its truthfulness. It was once believed, perhaps by the entire population, that the world was flat, that the sun orbited the Earth and that sickness was caused by an imbalance in the four humors. The preponderance of those beliefs, or any belief, has no relation to its veracity.
Using faith in other aspects of life is incredulous, it is unsound and just plain inadvisable. I would be terrified if, without inspecting my car, a mechanic informed me that my brakes were operational because he had faith—he felt it in his heart—that my brakes were functional.
It does not matter which prophet we follow or which book we revere. It does not matter how much faith we can muster. All faith traditions coalesce into one panoptic delusion. It does not matter which celestial door we knock upon or in what manner or how many times. It does not matter how often we pray, or in what direction, there will always be someone else praying to an alternate God with the same solemnity, with the same certainty, and with the same faith. Whether religious or secular, faith cannot be defended with rationality, and is therefore promulgated through propaganda, ostracism, and ultimately violence.
Crisis of faith, or doubt, is not a Divine test. It is rationality ascending like a phoenix from the ashes of an indoctrinated mind. Faith is a vitriol to knowledge and understanding. It is claiming something we don't and can't know, it is insidious and unreliable. It is a delusion, an epistemological conjuring trick, an investiture of truth which can be, and often is, applied to any puerile absurdity imaginable. Faith is an asylum for the gullible, the obsequious and the unthinking. It is a refuge for fools.
1 Buffum, Burt C Arid Agriculture; A Hand-Book for the Western Farmer and Stockman
2 Rose, M.R. Artificial selection on a fitness component in Drosophilia melangaster. Evolution 38
3 Boghossian, Peter (2013). A Manual for Creating Atheists. Pitchstone Llc. ISBN 1939578094
4 Boghossian, Peter (2013). A Manual for Creating Atheists. Pitchstone Llc. ISBN 1939578094
5 Romans 10:9-10 Acts 16:31 Acts 2:21 Mark 16:16
6 Qu'ran 3:85 4:14 4:56
7 “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence.” DSM V